Saturday, October 27, 2012

Becoming an Empty Nest





A while back a nice lady sent me an email asking me to write a a blog post on how I handled the difficulties of watching my children leave home and my thoughts on the empty nest topic.  At this point I’m not an empty nest yet, but I see it quickly approaching. After raising 8 children the thoughts of soon being down to the last 2 at home makes the empty nest much more of a reality. In this post I’m sharing my thoughts on this subject.


I was 18 when I had my first child and 33 (almost 34) when I had my 8th and last child. I have loved having a big family. I’ve spent my life devoted to raising them, caring for them and educating them. In the years that all of them were at home the thoughts of them someday growing up, beginning their own lives and moving away from home, honestly never occurred to me. I felt like the life I was living would go on forever; which was ok with me. I enjoyed it. Then my oldest son moved out. He had a job in the city and was going to college full time and he moved in with his grandfather to be closer to work and school. I cried myself to sleep that first night that he left. Then the reality hit me. Someday this will come to an end. All the children will grow up, move out and move on. It was a sad sobering thought to me.


Another reality hit me soon after this. As I was thinking, contemplating and praying about my son leaving home and in the years to follow the rest of my children leaving home, I realized something more important. This is exactly what I am raising them for. I am raising them to become their own people. Not my emotional crutch. Not my emotional stability. Not my emotional fulfillment. I am raising them to become independent, capable, God fearing, Jesus loving, people that can care for themselves, their families and step out in this world as prepared as much as I am able to prepare them.
 

One by one my children have begun to move out and move on with their own lives. It is always a little sad for me when they move on. But, I’m not sad for long knowing that they are stepping out in this world and fulfilling their own desires and purpose. I soon look at them and feel blessed to see adults that are productive, happy, achieving their goals and God given purpose in life.


This year I started out with 5 children still at home. Emily had come home after her year in Denmark working as an au pair and Jacob had lived with Hannah and her family for a short time while he was working full time in the city and not wanting the very long commute that living at home would have been. But the job ended for him and he moved back home. My house was full again. Then Emily got a job that was an hour and half away and moved closer to her work, Jacob began community college and working 4 to 5 nights a week and once again moved in with Hannah & her family to save on commute time and gas. Now Leanne will be leaving in less than a month for South Korea. As it stands at this point I will be down to my last 2 children living at home.


I have to admit that after 30 years of mothering/parenting I’m actually a little excited about what life with a small family looks and feels like and the prospect of being an empty nest in a few short years. You see, long ago I realized that I am my own person and not completely defined by my children but defined by many things. I think the empty nest issues result when we feel like we are only defined by our children and our role in raising them. Part of who I am is a mother and one who has dedicated her life to them, but there is so much more to see and experience. There are things I’ve wanted to do but not had the time to do, volunteer work I would love to do but not have had the time, home business ideas I would like to explore but have had no time, writing I’ve wanted to do but not had the time. You see the “me” that I know is proud to be a mom but also knows there is more to me as well. 


That is not to say I am in any hurry to see my children leave. Not at all, I am excited to spend one on one time with the youngest children. Sometimes in a big family the last are the ones that receive the least attention because as the older ones grow they seem to require so much to help them launch and begin their own lives. Now I have the time to invest more into them and this excites me. But I know that the same I’ve seen with the others will happen with them… they will move out and move on. And that is the way it should be!


Another part of who I am is a wife. During 30 years of raising children it’s easy to forget that my husband and I were a couple before we had children. We look forward to the years of freedom to be “us” again. I’ve seen many couples let their marriage take a back seat to raising a family. My husband and I have made a point over the years to nurture our relationship. We knew it was important to care for and invest in. We did not want to wake up after 35 years of raising children and look at each other and have no idea who “we” were any more. Part of becoming and empty nest for us has meant more time spent together and more time invested in our relationship and that has been such a sweet reward.


Life seems to be about seasons. There is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven). There is a season to meet and marry the man you love, a season to have a family, a season to raise them and a season to let them go… and a season to embrace and enjoy what God has still for you to do. We all want purpose in life. And certainly having children and raising a family is an incredible purpose. As that season begins to change then it is good to know that the Lord has another purpose for us. Another season for us to walk into. Just like the seasons of the year we walk from summer into fall and it is different, but it is still full of beauty, joy and excitement if we allow the Lord to guide the way.





9 comments:

  1. I was 18 when my first was born also. I have only three children and don't know how you stayed sane with eight. It was hard to see them grow up and leave but luckily they didn't go far.

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  2. I had my oldest when I was 20 and my youngest when I was 22. It was very difficult for me when my oldest moved away for college and then decided to stay there. She is 6 hours away. My youngest decided to go to college in the town that we live in so she stayed home. At first I was at loss of what to do with myself. But I learned to love my own peace and quiet when no one else is home but the dog and I. I have enjoyed long crafting sessions etc. I am also starting to volunteer at the alzheimer's society so I am looking forward to that.

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  3. I have wrestled with this issue lately and I think you have resolved it in a very biblical and encouraging manner. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post!

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  4. I am still in the thick of babies - our eighth is due in a couple of weeks. However, I have observed what you wrote about in my parents. I think it's very important for parents to keep their relationship alive and growing throughout their children's growing years. I watched this in my parents, and my husband and I are striving to do this. For now I'm treasuring up the memories of our noisy, busy household.

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  5. Well written. I am in the same place as you, although I only had 4 children, but I am down to 2 full time at home, I have to do a head count each night for dinner, sometimes we are 4, or 5, or 6, occaisionally we are 7, and occaisionally we are down to 3. I love having the time with my husband, and we often talk about all the things we can get up to when our nest is empty. And like you said as much as we are looking forward to that, we are not in a hurry to see them leave.

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  6. I couldnt agree more. Great blog post !

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  7. Hi Crystal,
    This post really spoke to my heart as I feel the same way you are feeling. Jon and I are loving being "empty nesters" and having so much fun together.
    Love ya my friend,
    Cathy

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  8. What a beautiful post, and your words on this provide a really good perspective. An "ending" is always another beginning! I have often wondered how I will cope when my children move out into the bigger world one day as adults, as so much of my time is dedicated to them (by choice!) Thank you Crystal for sharing your thoughts.

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  9. I empty nested in 2013 in 2014 my son asked me to move with him and his family of one child we moved in with them we are now a family of seven and oh what a big massive mess we all are but it is family and for the most part we enjoy it.
    I confess I miss the empty nest. In 2015 I was hit hard by Arthritis and in 2016 they added twin baby girls. It has been a lot ! Add to this my son is married to a girl who is a lost sole when it comes to keeping a home and managing a family!

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